Pakistan: Religious minorities must be rendered equal
Hatred and repulsion towards minorities in Pakistan has almost become a routine matter. The curriculum in the educational institutions starts teaching the children from grade 4, that other than Muslims the rest of the communities belonging to minorities are either inferior to us or are our adversaries. Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Ahmedis and Christians constantly fear persecution in their own country due to the weak legislative system and inequalities in the judicial system of Pakistan that disowns them. They are discriminated in educational institutions and workplace, their temples and places of worship are destroyed, young girls from their communities are harassed, raped and abducted and they have no legislation for inheritance.
The population of Sikhs in Pakistan is a small number of 20,000 only, who live mostly in Peshawar, Lahore, Nankana Sahib and a few other places. Just like other minorities in Pakistan, the Sikhs have faced extreme persecution with cases such as, the Sikh temple at Naulakha Bazar in Lahore was taken over by the Muslims in August 2007, their property in various places worth millions has been taken over and there have been several cases of kidnappings and executions as well. This has sent a shiver of fear amongst the Sikhs of Pakistan. The issues of Sikhs are hardly ever highlighted in the media or by the Civil Society whereas; they are numerous civil society organizations working for human rights and minority rights.
Recently, a case of a Sikh Girl was reported to “Al Falah without Walls (AW)”, a People’s Centered and Ecumenical National Institution working for the development and protection of marginalized communities in Quetta in Baluchistan Province. A young school going girl belonging to the Sikh community in Quetta which is almost diminished, had to face extreme discrimination at her school by fellow classmates and teachers, who subjected her to physical torture as well. She was discriminated due to her religious beliefs and because she belongs to the minority sect of the society. She eventually dropped out of school owing to the extreme bigotry. (AW) successfully fought for this young girl’s right in collaboration with other Organizations.
The efforts of these organizations were successful, and the girl was re-admitted to the school with the consent of her parents and assurance from the teachers who vowed not to discriminate against her and treat her equally with the other children. The other students also apologized to her and assured her that she is no less or inferior to anyone else, and shall not face anymore prejudice. She continues to go to school without any problem and dreams to be a teacher herself one day.
This country has a dire need to own its religious minorities, which is only possible through rendering them equal civil, political and social rights. There is a serious need to revise the curriculum and legislation to overcome similar issues in the future.
Photo: A Sikh man in the Pakistani town of Nankana reading from the holy book, Guri Granth Sahib
Credit: Shaun D Metcalfe